Godmanchester.  church of st mary the virgin.

The church of St Mary The Virgin at Godmanchester was one the last to be visited during the course of putting together this website. First visited on a bleak winter's day in late 2013 and re-visited a few months later in better lighting conditions. Godmanchester has some real history attached to it. The walled  Roman town of  Durovigutum was on the site of present day Godmanchester. This was close to Ermine Street and several other major Roman roads, and was sacked by Anglo Saxons in the fourth century.

  There was a church recorded here at the time of the Domesday survey in 1087, and it is though that this recorded a structure which dated from the early 11th century. Much of the structure dates from the 14th and 15th centuries. The tower dominates the landscape for miles around, and was re-built in 1623, using materials from a previous structure.

   There is a ring of eight bells here, with each of the eight being struck by Downham Market founder Thomas Osborne. Revd Owen's Victorian study of the church bells of Huntingdonshire stated that the ring of eight bells was struck in 1794 by Osborne, using the metal from four bells which hung here before that time. One of the bells has the inscription 'our voices shall with joyful sound make hills and valleys echo round'.

   Another is inscribed Revd Castle Sherard, Rector, along with the church wardens of the day. One bell was re-cast by Taylor of Loughborough in 1870 but the other seven are unaltered since they were cast.

  There are two porches here, north and south, and entry is through the south porch. Two splendid gargoyles, re-positioned at some point in the past, watch out over the south of the church grounds.

 The church here is open to the public and it is glorious inside. Lots of stained glass to be seen here including some windows from Charles Kempe, one of the greatest stained glass artists of the 19th century. His windows here include the anunciation and the nativity.  Very interested to see a series of windows depicting Matthew Chapter 25 verses 35 - 36 'For I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was in prison and you came to visit me'.

  Another window depicts faith, justice and humility. Justice is depicted carrying a sword and scales, courage is dressed in armour and carrying a shield and spear. Humility is seen carrying a lamb.

   The font is a mixture of old and new. The base in 20th century whilst the font itself dates back to the 13th century. Elsewhere in the interior it is worth noting that the misericords, wooden carvings on the seats in the chancel, are medieval and are thought to have come from either Huntingdon Priory or Ramsey Abbey.

To the south of the church is a stone erected to the memory of Mary Anne Weems. It says, very simply 'To the memory of Mary Ann Weems, who was murdered in the 21st year of her age'. The reverse of the grave has great detail though of what happened, and reads...'As a warning to the young of both sexes, this stone is erected by public subscription over the remains of Mary Ann Weems, who became acquainted with Thomas Weems, formerly of this parish. This connextion terminating in a compulsary marriage occasioned his soon to desert here and wishing to be married to another woman he filled up the measure of his iniquity by resolving to murder his wife, which he barbarously perpetrated at Wendy on their journey to London toward which place he had induced her to go under the mask of reconciliation on May 7th 1819. He was taken within a few hours after the crime was committed, and was executed on the 7th August in the same year'.

   A little further internet research showed that the body of Thomas Weems was given for medical experiment after his ececution, as was often the case in those days, so that doctors could try and establish why people did what they did.

   This is a lovely church set in beautiful surroundings. The river Ouse runs close by and this is a lovely place for a picnic in the summer. If you are visiting here then it is worth noting that Huntingdon, with it's two medieval parish churches is just a few minutes away. A lovely area to spend some time.

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